Study Bolsters Link Between Routine Hits and Brain Disease
By KEN BELSON
Published: December 3, 2012
The growing evidence of a link between head trauma and long-term, degenerative brain disease was amplified in an extensive study of athletes, military veterans and others who absorbed repeated hits to the head, according to new findings published in the scientific journal Brain.
The study, which included brain samples taken posthumously from 85 people who had histories of repeated mild traumatic brain injury, added to the mounting body of research revealing the possible consequences of routine hits to the head in sports like football and hockey. The possibility that such mild head trauma could result in long-term cognitive impairment has come to vex sports officials, team doctors, athletes and parents in recent years.
Of the group of 85 people, 80 percent (68 men) — nearly all of whom played sports — showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative and incurable disease whose symptoms can include memory loss, depression and dementia.
Among the group found to have C.T.E., 50 were football players, including 33 who played in the N.F.L. Among them were stars like Dave Duerson, Cookie Gilchrist and John Mackey. Many of the players were linemen and running backs, positions that tend to have more contact with opponents.